Strengths: - Overall: What a great processor! This is definitely the coolest pre-amp you can place in your cabinet at this price range!
- Sound: Excellent for movies, TV or music.
- Options: Lots of setup tweaking available. Great if you have an unusual room or need to mix speakers from several brands together.
- Speaker Config: Supports 2 sub outputs, 2 center outputs, and 2 center back outputs.
- LCD: Don't know how I lived without the built-in LCD display before... I will never go back!
Weaknesses: I actually have no complaints, so I need to stretch, so here are some items that if covered would make this the best processor on the planet:
- Ventilation: Your cabinet will need good ventilation if you leave the screen on... it does generate heat when in use (you can turn off).
- LCD: There does not appear to be a way to keep the LCD off permanently. It pops on for a few seconds whenever use use the remote... like change volume... to display the new status on the screen. Not a big issue, but they should be able to easily change this.
- Setup: Lacks an automatic setup process with built-in mic... like the Lexicon, Pioneer and Parasound units have. You definitely need your meter and a tape measure to set this up.
- Balanced Ins/Outs: Compared to the Krell Showcase, the Rotel has very similar inputs and outputs except the Krell provides lots of balanced inputs and outputs.
- THX: This unit does not have the THX pedigree, so no official THX modes, but I have never been a big fan of them anyway, so I don't miss them.
- Top Cover: The top cover should be more structurally substantial... the cover seems skimpy compared to the rest of the unit which is ultra solid.
I have used this pre-amp for 6 months now, and every day has been a joy. I have the benefit of comparing to several other pre-amps: Krell Showcase, Parasound AVC-2500, Proceed AVP and the ADA Cinema Reference. Here are my thoughts:
LCD Panel - What a great idea to have the panel built into the unit... and a widescreen one at that. This allows you to perform all setup via the onscreen menus without having to look over at the monitor. It will display the built-in menus and any composite source material. Great for setting Tivo or VCRs to record while the family watches regular tv, and if you have Escient equipment, you can choose DVDs and CDs right here. Other competitors are sprouting LCDs as well, but this appears to be the largest out there now at this price. Quite a head-turner, anyone who sees it will comment. You can set the display to turn off after a few seconds of use.. so it isn't on all the time.
Setup - Nice menus. Easy to use. Covers all the items a typical home theater needs. Front panel allows you to perform all menu selection and navigation with one knob! Outstanding... no remote control needed. Performing the upgrade to the latest software provides even more options. Almost everything is customizable... even cross-over points by speaker by input. Inludes equalization if you need it.
Bass Management - Number one issue with most processors is that they pass DVD-A and SACD signals without processing. The Rotel gives you the option of adding signal processing to the 7.1 input to route bass to the sub. Great option if your player lacks adequate bass control.
Inputs - Has just about everything anyone could want. Analog is covered well. I have one complaint that the Rotel (and its competitor's units) lacks sufficient optical inputs. Only three... These days, everything has an optical output, and coax digital outputs are harder to come by. Three digital sources is pretty skimpy for a full home theater. If you have a DVD, CD, CDR or DVDR and a couple DirecTV tivos, you're short. HDMI is a $ 300 upgrade at your local dealer
DSP - Nice full set of music and theater modes including straight through stereo in analog - in all other modes analog is converted to digital for processing.
Video - full bandwidth component video for HDTV. The Rotel will up-convert composite and S-video to Component - great! No conversion is performed between composite and s-video. Great ability to view one source on the LCD while viewing another on the TV/monitor.
Surround Performance - Dolby Digital and DTS processing is fantastic. Has Pro Logic II and several DTS options. On par with other processors that cost more. 7.1 and lots of DSP options for analog sources. I could not tell the difference between the Rotel and the Krell Showcase. Slightly more detail than the Parasound AVP-2500 and ADA Cinema Reference.
Stereo - Solid performer, though there are better. I have not heard a processor do better stereo than the Proceed pre-amps.
Build - this thing is a 30 pound tank. Makes the Krell Showcase seem pretty wimpy. And the weight is not all pretty packaging. Look inside and this unit comes fully loaded with a great power source and lots of capacitors for power when needed. All input and output cards are fully shielded! The face is solid and the rack handles are fantastic... you definitely need them to haul this unit around. Make sure you have a solid rack or shelf for this.
Upgrades - A+++. Not only has Rotel regularly provided updates and enhancements for the unit, but it is all available free and easy on the web site! Just download, connect the Rotel to your PC with the special RS-232 cable, and upgrade at will. No dealer needed. Just try that with Parasound (you need to ship it back), or Levinson/Proceed (again ship it), or Krell. A dealer can do it for you if you don't feel comfortable with the PC instructions...
Control - Fully controllable by external systems like Crestron and AMX. The RS-232 port provide access to all functions + some that are difficult to access with the standard remote.
Warranty - Well, you don't get the great Parasound 10 year warranty, or the Levinson/Proceed warranty transfer, but 5 years parts and labor is pretty good these days.
Summary - Try it... you'll love it. read less